Canton-Potsdam Hospital Providers Spread
Awareness of Thyroid Cancer
Otolaryngologist-Head and Neck Surgeon Michael Chater, MD, FRCSC and Endocrinologist Paul Tejera, MD are teaming up during National Thyroid Awareness Month to remind patients and the community of the importance of thyroid screenings. The two physicians are preparing for community talks this fall and spring 2016. Public announcements will be made with more details.
Thyroid cancer is a cancerous tumor or growth located within the thyroid gland, affecting people of all ages and race, and is the most common endocrine cancer today. There is an increased risk in women (approximately 3 times more common) over men. The American Cancer Society estimates 65,450 new cases of thyroid cancer in the US by the end of 2015. The Society also notes some inherited conditions and family history have been linked to different types of thyroid cancer. About 1 out of 3 medullary thyroid carcinomas (one of the least common thyroid cancers) results from inheriting an abnormal gene. Exposure to radiation in childhood or having a family history of thyroid cancer are both risk factors for developing thyroid cancer in the future.
According to Dr. Chater and Dr. Tejera, the vast majority of thyroid nodules are benign (non-cancerous); however, some are aggressive and difficult to treat, making it even more important for medical providers to rule out or detect cancer while it’s in an early, treatable stage. A neck screening exam is non-invasive and takes just minutes to perform.
Many individuals with thyroid cancer don’t have any symptoms, according to Dr. Chater and Dr. Tejera. For others, symptoms range from a lump or nodule in the front of the neck, hoarseness or difficulty speaking, swollen lymph nodes, difficulty swallowing or breathing, and pain in the throat or neck.
“That’s why screening is important,” noted Dr. Tejera. Screening can be performed by a primary care practitioner. It consists of a physical assessment to see if there is enlargement or abnormality of the gland. In the event a suspicious mass is detected, the provider may recommend a simple blood test, scope, ultrasound, and/or CT scan to confirm their diagnosis.
“Sometimes the body’s thyroid gland tissue continues to grow, often causing little to no complications. This is referred to as a simple thyroid goiter. However, when the growth starts affecting the thyroid’s ability to produce appropriate levels of hormones I get concerned,” said Dr. Tejera. “Working in conjunction with the pituitary gland, thyroid hormones T3 and free T4 help regulate cells across the body involved in metabolism, heart rate, muscle strength, and digestion. The earlier a mass is found, the more options we have to address it and work toward a normal endocrine state,” Dr. Tejera added.
“A nodule in the thyroid area doesn’t automatically mean cancer; regardless, it’s important to thoroughly investigate the mass to ensure the best outcome,” said Dr. Chater. “A tumor’s proximity can directly influence a patient’s symptoms. Any excess growth close to the esophagus and vocal cords could lead to obstruction of breathing, difficulty swallowing, or speech impediments. “If we can detect the tumor in its earlier stages, surgical removal can often spare structures that are nearby,” added Dr. Chater.
“If not detected early, the most advanced surgical treatments are required to obtain the best outcome,” said Dr. Chater. “Patients should be sure their surgeon offers minimally invasive techniques such as intraoperative nerve monitoring. They should also look for a multidisciplinary approach, not only through the combined expertise of a surgeon and endocrinologist, but also the supportive team of radiation oncology, speech therapy, and pain medicine. I’m part of such a program at CPH,” he said.
The physicians noted that all CPH providers invite their patients to ask questions and to take a preventive, proactive, collaborative approach to their care. For more information on thyroid screening or services at Canton-Potsdam Hospital, individuals can visit www.cphospital.org, call Dr. Chater at (315) 274-9710, or Dr. Tejera at (315) 274-9740. For more information regarding thyroid cancer, please visit the American Thyroid Association at www.thyroid.org/cancer-of-the-thyroid/.